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Rep. Cynthia McKinney Outraged By Administration's Proposed Treatment of Aggrieved Black Farmers

April 10, 1998

"If President Clinton was serious about this issue it would have already been resolved."

(Washington)- Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) today announced that she is "outraged and insulted" by the legislative proposal that the Clinton Administration is planning to announce to handle the over 2,000 formal complaints and cases by black farmers against the USDA. "This proposal is unscrupulous and underhanded and falls short of any attempt at bringing justice".

After years of discrimination and abuse at the hands of USDA, black farmers who had filed individual administrative complaints with the USDA, but had been ignored got together last August and filed a class action suit. After waiting, in some cases since 1983, for justice and redress and after the UDSA admitted to past discrimination against the farmers the Clinton Administration plans to impose yet another level of cumbersome bureaucracy.

Because the discrimination against many of the farmers occurred so long ago, their cases have "statute of limitations" conflicts, that is the government can avoid liability by asserting that the two year time bar prevents them from making restitution. The Administration's plan to remedy this conflict is to re-investigate on a case by case basis and make decisions based on re-evaluation. This will not only delay justice that the farmers are due but deny them the right to appeal adverse determinations. This will kill the class action suit. McKinney says she is "disgusted" by this proposal and that "the Administration is hiding behind legalese to prevent these black farmers from receiving justice".

In a meeting with McKinney in December the president said that he would do everything he could within legal authority to accelerate the settlement of the outstanding cases and that he would bring moral and political pressure to bear where possible. Today McKinney said, "it is time for President Clinton to show some moral fortitude and put some money where his mouth is. How are we to believe that he will deliver on assisting Sub Saharan Africa, when his Administration will not do the right thing for African American farmers right here at home"?

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